I Flew Budget Air Long Haul To Singapore
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I flew Norwegian Air from London Gatwick to Singapore to see what long haul budget flights are really like!
Being able to budget and save money is integral to being able to travel continuously. That’s why we here at Travel Continuously are always on the look out for great ways to save money on your travel costs. I recently flew from London to Singapore, and I decided to book Norwegian Air for the long haul trip, to see what it would really be like spending 13 hours flying with a budget airline!
Norwegian Air. Budget long haul flights!
Sat in cold old England I was looking for somewhere a little warmer to spend the December month. In the world of travel though, the most expensive time of year to fly is December, when flights tend to cost a premium because of the time of year, and tend even to sell out completely on some routes. It is not a cheap time to fly. Airfares work in a fairly simple manner in many respects, the time of year dictates one factor in the price. The same fare in December is likely to have a surcharge compared to say October for instance. And more importantly, airlines only sell a certain number of seats at each pricing band. The more seats that are sold, the more the next pricing band costs- essentially. So with it being December, the cheap flights tend to sell out early, and you’re left with only the more expensive seats remaining.
I know this from a long time spent working as a travel agent, and looking at flights from the UK to ANYWHERE hot I was coming short of ANYTHING much within my budget.
Step in Norwegian Air
These guys started selling cheap flights around Europe from their hub in- of course- Norway. I flew with them many years ago, just on a short haul flight, and was surprised by the level of service, simplicity of use and importantly for a man who is over 6 foot tall the ample leg room allowance.
They started changing the long haul game by offering cheap flights to the USA, to New York and Florida and now many other destinations too, taking the concept of budget air travel and competing with traditional carriers like British Airways.
Now looking to find a cheap one way flight to Asia, where I could carry on the whole digital nomad thing with ease, I wasn’t having much luck finding many flights under around £400, let alone anything with decent connections.
Norwegian Air recently began a new route though. London Gatwick to Singapore. A 13 hour flight. This is the longest flight they’ve offered, and fares can be as low as £150 one way. Being budget though, this low fare is very limited of course, and doesn’t include any luggage or meals.
On a 13 hour flight, you will probably want a bit of food, and living out of a rucksack meant that I was definitely going to need some luggage too.
The Skyscanner Search
I always use Skyscanner to start looking for cheap flights. It’s a solid base to start to get a good idea of what’s available, what prices you might pay and what airlines have good deals. It’s never accurate though. Prices fluctuate faster than Skyscanner updates.
But I started my search for flights to Asia, looking at Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali- until the volcano put me off that idea– and everywhere else in between.
My first few searches only came up with expensive flights with around 3 stops through strange airports. London to Moscow to Calcutta to Kuala Lumpur… Not the best route. And I’d probably need transit visas for Russia and India too as the airlines weren’t connecting…
Being flexible on my dates, I began to narrow down a time frame, but still the cheapest I was finding was around £400 – £450 on Skyscanner, which when I actually went to go and book would actually be more like £500.
Then I stumbled across the Norwegian Air flight in the screenshot below. Only £306! It turns out this flight only runs 4 times a week and with my searches I’d been missing it. It was also direct, the cheapest and the fastest. But did I really want to fly with Norwegian Air for 12 hours and 40 minutes? Surely it was too good to be true?
I visited the Norwegian Air Website to investigate, and found this base price was just their ‘Low Fare’. No frills at all. Just a hand luggage allowance of 10 Kilos. No food, not even water.
Their next fare level though was £349.90. This is their ‘LowFare+’ and this included a generous 20 Kilos of hold luggage, and two inclusive meals and beverages. Pretty much your standard airline fare. And it worked out cheaper than just purchasing luggage and taking my own sandwiches on board. This was the fare to get, really.
While not the low, low price of £300 it was still cheaper than any of the nearest competitors, and it was direct and departing at a time that was actually rather nice. London Gatwick was further way for me than say Heathrow, but being late in the evening I’d have all day to get down there. The other flights would leave from Heathrow early in the morning, meaning I’d have to factor in hotel costs too to be there on time. This was really looking like the best option, so I booked.
Extra Legroom? Yes Please!
What I hadn’t realised is that the LowPlus+ Fare also included seat selection. Being led through to the selection page, I soon realised that extra leg room seats weren’t differentiated from normal seats. I could select an extra leg room seat at no extra cost to a normal seat. Most scheduled airlines charge extra for this privilege too, so this was definitely a bonus, especially considering there was still a bulk head seat left, even though I was booking only a few days before departure. I would be flying in luxury!
What about a return fare?
Norwegian Air follow the budget airline fare system, where buying a return is not cheaper. You just purchase two one ways. This works in your favour when just buying a one way as I was, but buying a return would have put the whole flight on an equal footing with other scheduled carriers such as British Airways or Singapore Airlines, depending on the return dates. Scheduled airlines offer a discount generally for a return, you get a better price than buying two one ways. So if purchasing a return, Norwegian may end up being more expensive. But again, this all depends on your dates, the availability and if you are willing to stop over. Just make sure to thoroughly check the market place!
So what was a long haul flight with Norwegian Air like?
So enough of the booking process, you’re probably reading this article because you want to know if it’s worth it to fly budget long haul with Norwegian Air.
I’ll be incredibly honest, it was definitely worth the savings, however if there was a flight with Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Emirates or Etihad- the world leaders in Aviation- and these were the same cost, I would still pick these over Norwegian. I don’t want to put Norwegian down at all, no, they were excellent, but these airlines still offer a more premium service. But I wouldn’t pay extra to fly with these over Norwegian Air.
The Check In Process
Check in at London Gatwick was simple and efficient. There were standard check in quees but I skipped these by going straight to the self service. I could have checked in online too but I was too lazy. There was no wait for the self service machines, and I printed my boarding pass and luggage tag quickly before throwing my bag on the conveyor belt and heading straight into the departure terminal.
Boarding the London Gatwick to Singapore flight
Boarding was just as easy. With pre-assigned seats there was no scramble and everything was orderly. I found my seat and settled in at the bulk head with enough room to stretch out my 6ft frame completely. Even the standard seats looked fairly roomy too.
Take your own headphones!
I wasn’t sure what the entertainment system would be like. On a short haul flight, this isn’t something you worry about. But for 13 hours I would need it. Norwegian Air didn’t specify during the booking process what exactly the entertainment would consist of. I read a few reviews saying you needed to buy headphones, so was wary that perhaps I would be paying a premium for this. In the end, it transpired that I could buy headphones for $5, but actually all the movie screens allowed you to plug your own headphones in. Just remember to take some on board if flying with Norwegian Air!
The movies themselves were a bit limited, a few new releases like Wonder Woman and Baby Driver, and a few old classics. I ended up watching Braveheart and the new version of the Mummy. Not bad really, although the original Mummy is much better.
The system is also a cool touchscreen monitor from which you could also order drinks and snacks.
The Food and Drinks!
Now, finally to the really important part. The food and drink.
This was included as part of my fare, but if purchasing the really cheap ticket, food and drink has to be paid for separately. I got two meals, a dinner after take off and a breakfast in the morning. Both hot.
Dinner was rather delicious as far as airline food goes. A braised beef dish, in red wine sauce with mash potato and veg, followed by a cheesecake. The cheesecake was a bit weird, there was no biscuit base, but still tasty.
Breakfast was almost a full English. Sausages, a delicious cheese omelette, tomato and coffee. And a croissant.
The food was up to standard. The only difference between Norwegian Air and other long haul airlines is that I only received one drink per meal. This could be the usual soft drink, beer, wine or spirits, but it wasn’t unlimited. Outside of mealtime drinks had to be paid for. As long as you’re not planning on getting wasted on the flight, then this isn’t too much of a problem.
So was it worth the savings?
For me, it was definitely worth the savings. The service was on point for the price. But like I said earlier, if a scheduled airline offered a flight for the same price that I could book- which is more than possible if factoring in a return flight too- then I would go for that, just for the extra perks of unlimited drinks and better movie selection. If you don’t care about that, then Norwegian Air is a winner. And for me the savings and great service made it a winner for my particular needs anyway!
Have you ever flown Norwegian Air long haul? What were your thoughts on the service? Let us know in the comments below!
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Cover Photo From Flickr By karendesuyo
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